Simple Hypothesis: Murdoch’s Delusions Breed Controversies


Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch addresses a session of the World Economic Forum in DavosRupert Murdoch has many ideas that I believe to be wrong-headed about the direction of news publishing. From paywalls to paper products to iPad apps that fail to take advantage of the medium.

Shackled by those constraints he expects his organization to grow readership and revenues at the rates that his organization once did. It seems to me to be a reasonable hypothesis then, that to achieve these ends in a down global economy with backward looking vision you have to resort to nefarious methods.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) European ciculation scandal is a pretty excellent candidate for this hypthesis’ further examination. Circulation numbers are the key drivers of the price that a publication can charge advertisers. The bigger the circulation the higher the cost of advertising. As a young consumer, using a bevy of forward looking tech products why would you choose a News Corporation product? WSJ can’t make aggressive changes to how they do things and so they must resort to cheating and lying to make things work.

This same logic applies just as well to the phone “hacking” scandal that has recently rocked the Murdoch empire via the News of the World publication. The phone hacking seems to be a symptom of the need to be more sensationalist, to get the newest and most intimate stories about famous people. Few would argue that this is anything but a play for more readers. Many publications have a strong push toward growing their readership, the question is, why do Murdoch publications seem to go further than anyone else?

Undoubtedly there are many reasons for the recent controversies at News Corporation, but I submit that another, and possibly underlying reason, is that Murdoch’s myopic view of media’s future has forced his publications into questionable tactics in order to achieve his view of success.

Photo Credit: World Economic Forum

Used with a Creative Commons Licence

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